Ben Kingsley finds great depth in ‘Iron Man’ villain
By Cindy Pearlman May 2, 2013 3:07PM
Sir Ben Kingsley, who turns 70 this year, stars as the Mandarin, the villain in “Iron Man 3.” | © 2012 Marvel
LOS ANGELES — Iron Man is the first one to admit that even he has his, uh, kryptonite.
“These superheroes are only ever as good as their bad guys,” says Robert Downey Jr. “If you have a lame bad guy then you’re done.”
There is nothing lame about the baddie in “Iron Man 3.” In fact, he’s Sir Bad Guy.
Sir Ben Kingsley, who turns 70 this year, plays The Mandarin, an evil sort who seems to have terrorism on his mind.
“I tried to give the Mandarin in his political broadcasts a certain political sense of righteousness. He’s almost paternalistic and patriarchic,” says Kingsley during an early morning interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“There’s an unpredictability to him that I really enjoyed.”
Kingsley, who has at least half a dozen films currently in the can, says that he had rules when it came to doing a superhero movie.
“The Mandarin is such a unique villain,” he says. “And the role was all in the script. There was a wonderful document and there was very little straying off the written word. When we did improvise, it was minimal and just maybe to just sharpen one or two little ideas.
“In an ‘Iron Man’ movie, it’s all there. I’m the kind of actor who really responds to the written word. I love to see it down there on the page.”
He says that his strange delivery of lines in the film was key.
“His delivery and his weird iconography were there to disconcert the audience and completely scatter any expectations of where this Mandarin might be coming from. Again, it was all about unpredictability.”
It’s also about some strange looks. “I promise that you’ll find me in at least one terrible outfit,” he says with a laugh.
Kingsley, best known for his Oscar-winning work in “Gandhi” (1982) and films including “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Shutter Island” (2010), says that another perk for him was working with Downey.
“The ‘Iron Man’ movies come from Robert who brings such good energy to the set,” he says. “There’s always a quest for sincerity and a quest for the genuine from him. There is a quest for putting the human dance on the screen. All generations respond. Children respond to sincerity as doadults. Robert is that guiding type of actor who takes us through an experience.”
Kingsley says that acting, for him, is about sincerity.
“I always debate where the sincerity is in a scene,” Kingsley says. “I ask, ‘Where is the heart?’”
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